With a previously released schedule putting the debut some time in September; Thursday's Mortal Kombat: Legacy II panel was unlikely to reveal all the secrets fans are waiting for. That said, San Diego Comic Con would still deliver plenty of talking points with a general trailer, and special previews.
Legacy Director Kevin Tancharoen headed the Comic Con panel, opposite stars; Brian Tee (Liu Kang), Casper Van Dien (Johnny Cage), Ian Anthony Dale (Scorpion), and Samantha Jo (Kitana). They were joined by Producer Lance Sloane and Machinima Executive VP of Network Programming: Aaron DeBevoise.
The main event was footage featuring a brutal three-way dance between Johnny Cage, Mileena & Kitana. It clearly addressed concerns about the quality of action seen in the first series, but would come with a qualifier almost in contrast to its content.
By all accounts, "fatality" was the word of the day at the SDCC panel, but as Polygon inferred (from their interview with the director), the messages were slightly mixed. Legacy II may be keen to sell you murderous finishing moves taken from the games, but Tancharoen insists that won't come at the cost of storytelling, or a projected Season 3.
The Mortal Kombat: Legacy II SDCC Panel [via @Machinima_com]
For the most part, the panel told us versions of what we already know. The series of shorts will document a linear account of the Mortal Kombat tournament, building chapters around relationships of intrinsically linked duos. Scorpion & Sub-Zero, Liu Kang & Kung Lao, and Kitana & MIleena are all set to be in the spotlight, featured in versions of familiar plot.
Taken at face value, it seems as if the rivalry between Kitana and her half-breed "sister" Mileena will be short lived come Legacy II. In the special extended preview clip, Johnny Cage finds himself ousted from a fight with Mileena, when Kitana interjects. The resulting exchange was described by IGN as a "knock-down, drag out battle" that ends with some degree of martial, fan-related decapitation.
One of the best known duos absent from the line-up is Sonya & Jax. Announced as part of the original character roster, they were axed due to scheduling conflicts. Series 1 stars Jeri Ryan and Michael Jai White both made their status known early in pre-production, with White eyeing a movie role return [full story]. The iconic four-armed boss Goro was another publicly discussed character from the tournament; forced to be omitted due to budget.
Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon joined the panel as a marquee special guest and representative of the source material. His contributions varied from the thrilling, to the diplomatic. As the voice of Scorpion for over twenty years [see; Injustice]; Boon thrilled fans by bellowing the immortal line, "Get over here!" It's a feat the NetherRealm Studios Creative Director performs live with surprising rarity, so it's well worth a look [embedded below].
Ed Boon: really just wishes you'd come a little closer.
[Boon]'s take on the transition from game to live-action is less source loyal than his famous catch cry -- generous to the significant license taken by Tancharoen and the Legacy series.
"One of the coolest things about this second series is that it's a reinterpretation of the characters. We're retelling the origins of the characters. Sometimes it's consistent with the games and sometimes it's a different spin, which I find very interesting. I don't think we should keep repeating the same story, especially as we are doing something more contemporary now."
Given the games' penchant for revisiting old plot -- quite literally, in the most recent reboot installment of the games -- Boon may be incriminating himself ever so slightly. Kindly support for the show is the real message, but it may take more than a pleasant nod from the father of Kombat to convince die hard fans.
In their account: Polygon calls the focus on story and character in Legacy II "new". It's towing a line initiated by the director himself, who pitches his efforts in the second series as "push[ing] the limits" of the "storytelling of the characters." He follows on, "That is not something that people might expect from a Mortal Kombat story, which is about battles and fatalities, but I want to go deeper than that."
It's inflammatory language to fans of the games, who've long appreciated their ability to go beyond the side-to-side fights that drive the gameplay. Tancharoen is right to note the low expectations fighting game stories are often saddled with, but may be overstepping himself by implying those assumptions are right.
While the kung fu film inspired fatality system has long been a well known trademark -- it's never been the crux of the Mortal Kombat experience. In an interview with Mortal Kombat Online, series co-creator John Tobias noted, "... anyone who really believes that the only reason players play MK is for the violence probably has never really played MK." It's much of Tobias' work as writer and character designer that Tancharoen will be loosely working from. His interest typically appears cursory, at best [read more].
With the largest viewership for an original series on YouTube [more], you've got to think Mortal Kombat: Legacy did something right. With views peaking in the tens of millions, the phenomenon has clearly found a broad audience, even in its self-described flawed form. With an apparent disregard for the original material, we can't call this a series explicitly for fans, but it's certainly reached plenty in its divisive manner, and will continue to do so.
According to IGN, the director expressed interest in bringing Sonya back for Series 3. Cult favourite Kabal has also been teased for a Series 3 role, having previously been reserved for the expected feature film [full story]. Though nothing has been confirmed, there is clearly an active interest to continue the web anthology, even if the long rumoured feature film should stall.
Mortal Kombat: Legacy II will be available freely when it premieres on YouTube in September. The show is a featured presentation of Machinima, who recently had Kevin Tancharoen tease the show during their 24 Hour Prime Birthday Stream. Get the detailed stories in our Legacy II Kompendium and discuss it all in the Media & Merchandise forum.